We have another stellar cover this Prog, this time by Mark Harrison. A great tag line reads, “Unexpected item in the fragging area…” giving a smile at first glance and then rage as you remember your last trip to the self-service checkout. There’s lots going on as we enter Prog 2037.
Judge Dredd // “Parental Guidance” Part 1 by Rory McConville, Leigh Gallagher, and Annie Parkhouse
Leigh Gallagher’s art springs out straight away as we look down upon a section of Mega-City One. A strange lightning field is appearing from the top of a block and inside is a strange ritual being practiced. The way Rory McConville throws us into the story head first and then explains the situation, captures our attention straight away.
The concept of censoring and hiding the harsh reality of life from our children runs through this story and given the choice, would we want to present our children with rose-tinted glasses at times? Parents might be torn, but what if? What if we could present positive imagery to our kids when they encounter something truly scary or horrific? Well, in true Judge Dredd fashion, we’re faced with a crazy concept brought to life and given flesh and… errm… in this case… pixels?
The concept is great and Gallagher’s artwork transposes the idyllic imagery the child can see with the grime and violence that is in fact happening before him. Colours and shading play a huge part of this thanks to bright almost washed-out colours when presented with the false imagery and the dinge of reds and oranges that make up reality.
The bonkers depiction of Dredd through such visions is something you’ve probably never ever thought of, at once being hilarious and yet possibly scarier than the ‘real’ thing. Couple this with some funny moments and you get humour dryly laid over the harsh reality of Mega-City One.
Annie Parkhouse is consistently excellent with her lettering, regardless of title or issue, and this helps round off this first part as a really fun and well thought-out experience.
Brink // “Skeleton Life” Part 15 by Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard, and Simon Bowland
These latter-parts to Brink have been fast paced and smoothly orchestrated by Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard, both working together to give suspense and only the occasional action sequence. The intrigue has built and there are still elements that demand some answers, yet the thriller side of the story is very much what keeps us engaged.
The three main protagonists are in a sticky situation, about to be void into space. Kurtis has been able to deal with any situation and her cool, collected character is just great to read. She’s fallible, yet confident and capable.
Gibrani gives some more fun lines as she offers Junot all the patience of a dying gnat. Her obvious contempt for the CEO and the mess she’s put everyone in is not even remotely hidden as she interacts and ‘helps’ Junot.
The artwork is, as always, styled brilliantly yet somehow simply, showing that sometimes ‘less is more’ as the setting and environments are iconic and recognisable thanks to the clever colouring in each panel and different environment.
The ride isn’t over yet.
Defoe // “Diehards” Part 12 by Pat Mills, Colin MacNeil, and Ellie De Ville
All the cards are on the table and it’s time for a showdown as Defoe confronts the enemy face on. Pat Mills’ twisting story and many suspects have led us rather suitably to a graveyard with all the resource that Chapman could possibly ask for.
True motives are revealed and Pat Mills’ political commentary comes to the fore as extremism is born out of desperation. When Mills then throws religion into the mix, it’s a complete societal package and good vs. evil goes out the wind as ‘meaning well’ becomes no justification for people’s actions.
At first glance, Defoe is a title about a man who’s been dealt a shitty hand whose job is to kill the undead. As a vehicle, however, there is plenty of room for many diverse themes to carry it forward and make it interesting.
Colin MacNeil’s work can be so violent yet beautiful at times thanks to silhouettes and smudgy blacks and whites. The undead are despatched with satisfying panels as muzzle flashes erupt and skulls are blown out.
Mills’ dialogue is also fun as Gallowgrass’ obsession with studying the undead continues (while they proceed to attack he and Defoe) and this gives an eccentricity to the whole proceedings.
Defoe has a lot of depth and “Diehards” has been a great series so far.
Grey Area // “Batch Recall” by Dan Abnett, Mark Harrison, and Annie Parkhouse
ETC Squad 86 are called to the scene of a killing where several freight workers have been reported dead. The locale for this story is split between the scene of the crimes and a residential area which presents to the reader imminent danger to one half of the squad and a frustrating conversation to the other as they interrogate an alien trader (their sole lead).
As the squad encounter more dead and the conversation with the alien continues awkwardly, the danger looms and suspense mounts until the reveal and ultimate climax.
The artwork is gripping and dynamic with Mark Harrison’s unique style depicting various environments and technology with lots of detail. The various characters interact with puzzled expressions and moments of shock, again with lots of detail. The alien, on the other hand, is interesting in that it’s drawn with strong dark outlines, but the facial features appear basic. The bizarre character is finished with a smart tie and shirt which is both stereotypical business attire and a failed effort to adopt human culture. All the same, it could be argued that the alien’s business practices are very much founded in human behaviour. The title “Batch Recall” is given for a reason.
This standalone story is great in its own right and it’s going to be interesting to see if 2000 AD is going to give us a long-term story arc at some point or not.
Hunted // “Furies” Part 4 by Gordon Rennie, PJ Holden, Len O’Grady, and Ellie De Ville
As The Traitor General gathers mercenaries to fight for him, we sit among a group of guns for hire heading to for his HQ. A rough and motley group of individuals are talking about their various motivations for working for the General and Gordon Rennie adds the line, “Make mankind great again.” I wonder if Donald Trump has any idea how influential he is in pop-culture when depicting bigoted idiots. It feels a shame that he has no idea about this influence. However, for the rest of us it will produce a wry smile and add a certain amount of ignorance to a character which only a line uttered by Trump could possibly give.
Throughout the conversation an individual is singled out and it’s immediately obvious why. The individual looks different. Their face is entirely obscured and is in a complete suit of armour. But, although humanoid, the visual difference is huge between this character and the others, enough to draw unwanted attention from them. This kind of minority experience again echoes real life as so often people choose to attack what they don’t understand.
PJ Holden’s art and Len O’Grady’s colouring stands out immediately in the first panel thanks to some impressive detail of the interior of the shuttle. Cargo is secured behind netting, all of which is given hashed markings with crisscrossed dark lines. The characters are distinctive (and often ugly) with lots of bad attitudes slapped across their faces, setting the tone for their conversation. The mysterious and anonymous individual in the armoured suit is detailed and dangerous looking and, without a doubt, the best panel is on page three as the inhabitant shows exactly what they are capable of. I’d love to discuss this more, but there is a huge risk of spoilers – no one wants that on their conscience.
2000 AD Prog 2037 is fantastic and presents plenty of sci-fi/fantasy/horror while discussing real-world themes and politics in the background. For those who like a dose of thoughtfulness with their escapism, 2000 AD really is the comic you need in your life. This Prog ties everything together into one amazing issue.
2000 AD Prog 2037 is out Wednesday 28th June in stores, online and digitally via www.2000adonline.com